Part 1: Cinematography and Composition Lessons from All the Money in the World (2017) film by Ridley Scott


I just watched the film “All the Money in the World (2017)” by Ridley Scott /// cinematography by Dariusz Wolski and was blown away.

Why I loved the movie

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To me, the film is phenomenal. 10/10 rating.


  1. Great morals on the meaning of money vs family.
  2. Phenomenal cinematography (layers, blocking techniques, and camera panning)
  3. Great performances by Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg (I have new respect for Wahlberg as an actor)
  4. Lots of great composition techniques we can learn as photographers//budding videographers//film-makers/directors.

Quotes by Dariusz Wolski


To start off, let us cover some quotes by the cinematographer, Dariusz Wolski:

1. You can make great film with minimal equipment


I remember when I got to the stage in commercials when I finally had enough time and enough money, I would shoot something really pretty, but it was like, ‘So what?’ If you have enough time, enough money, the right equipment and the right filter, it still doesn’t necessarily make for a better picture. You can do an average painting with 40 colors, or you can just take a pencil and make a great drawing.

2. Composing carefully


We compose the shot carefully. Ridley is quite precise about composition. He is a visual director. [2015]

3. On Digital vs Film:


Lately we’re seeing a film reaction to the digital world. It’s like, “Oh, digital is not pure, so to be pure, we’re going to shoot film.” I’ve shot lots of film. It’s not like I’m some new kid on the block; I’ve shot a lot of movies on film, and I love film. But everyone forgot about bad baths on Monday. And things could go wrong. Was it the camera? Was it the lab? Or was it Kodak? Was it the wrong batch? Everyone forgot about those details. Remember green dailies? What happened? First, fire the cameraman. But then it was learned that some guy fell asleep at the lab. Everyone has forgotten about those stories. (…) Unfortunately, we are losing people with skills to run a film lab. Nobody who is 30 years old wants to be a lab technician any more; they’re all working on their computers, shooting movies on GoPros. Who’s going to be the guy in the lab at two in the morning making sure the temperature in the bath is okay? Don’t get me started on the film vs digital world. I love those last purists who shoot film and they do such a heavy DI manipulation, you wonder where’s the film? Give me three printing lights like we used to do. Then let’s talk about film. It’s a sentimental notion. [2015]

Moving on, let us analyze the film.

1. Foreground, middle-ground, background (3 subjects)

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2. Surreal composition:


Epic composition: depth layers (man with headphones is the foreground, then the arm on top of the frame, then the woman in the background with her eyes obscured):


3. Closeup on hand silhouette // obscured eyes


4. Spacing // mise en scene

Note this great scene– and the spacing between the subjects and geometrical elements in the background:


5. Car pulling up

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This is probably one of my favorite “3D” scenes of this car pulling up:

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To analyze the first scene, note the triangle and depth composition:


The last bit of the car pulling up: note the nice geometric shapes in the car as well:



6. Silhouette

Good “figure to ground” with the separation of Getty’s face and hat against the background:


7. Extreme depth

Another superb scene: with extreme depth (silhouette of man with cigarette in foreground, painting in middle-ground, and moving woman in background):

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Let us analyze the first image:


Then the depth on the third image:


8. Triangle composition / depth

Another great layout with 3 subjects– also note the scale (how the man in the foreground is the biggest, then the size of Getty, and the man in the extreme background):


9. Epic beautiful light & Grey/Blue x Burgundy color contrast


10. Dynamic depth, halo of light around Getty, as well as diagonal man


11. Geometric shapes and side-profile composition


My favorite stills from the film

Pro tip: When watching a film, take screenshots on your laptop of scenes you like and analyze the compositions after-the-fact.

More ideas:

1. Don’t just watch a movie; visually analyze the film while you’re watching it

Study these stills from the film, and ask yourself:

  • How do you see the expression of the subjects change in each frame?
  • How does the camera move/pan around the scene?
  • Where do you see depth, triangles, or other compositional elements which balance the frame?


Cinematography and life lessons:

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